Eviction of sex workers from their registered brothels is not only an immoral act but a sign of power play of the influential of the society, observed sex workers and human rights activists.
They also opined that eviction of sex workers from a land that belongs to them is a violation of their constitutional and social rights. “It is a punishable crime, too,” they said.
According to the present law of the country, sex work is not illegal.
One who has registered him/herself as a sex worker is free to run business in the government specified areas. Currently, 11 brothels are in running in the country with government’s permission.
However, over the years, these brothels have faced threats both from the administration and ‘religious people’ of the society mostly backed by Islamic organisations. Most of the time, law enforcement agencies remained silent whenever the local influential tried to evict them.
“If anybody thinks that these evictions took place out of some moral issues and that we are doing some criminal activities, then they are wrong. We are not doing anything illegal. Such eviction took place every time to grab our land which either inherently or by purchasing belongs to us,” Joya Shikder leader of the Sex Workers Network told the Dhaka Tribune.
“Due to such eviction acts we are being compelled to scatter across the country and run our businesses on the streets, parks or by hiring apartments in different areas. Is this how the government thinks it is bringing welfare and morality to the society?” Joya asked.
She also mentioned that the recent attack on sex workers in Madaripur by activists of Islahe Qawmi Parishad was a violation of the High Court order.
On August 26 the court had extended their stay order for one year, which allows them to reside there. So the eviction was illegal, she said.
Madaripur Police Superintended Faridur Rahman admitted that activists of the Islamist group had carried the attack.
Day before yesterday, activists of Islahe went on a rampage on the 200-year-old brothel in Puranbazar, Madaripur. The brothel located at the heart of the town had around 800 houses 75% of which belonged to the sex workers either by inheritance or by purchasing. The attacks left around 500 sex workers shelter less.
“Such step by the so-called religious and moral people reveals their arrogance in the name of religion. It also shows ultimate disrespect towards judiciary and rule of law in the country. They are using morality and religion as a shield to gain their own purposes,” rights activists Khushi Kabir told the Dhaka Tribune.
“Every quarter such as law enforcers, businessmen and ruling party’s men have interest in our lands. They are interested to build commercial buildings on them,” Tara, leader of Puranbazar brothel, Madaripur said.
When asked about rehabilitation, the leaders of sex workers said there was no point of providing some shabby rehabilitation which ultimately drags them into worse situation than they are already in.
“Usually after evicting, the government hands over Tk10,000 and a swing machine to the sex workers in the name of rehabilitation under the social welfare department. The department does not even bother to know whether we can sew or not,” Joya said.
The trend of evicting sex workers started in 1999 when the Tanbazar brothel in Narayanganj established in 1888, got evicted.
Later on, Kanduapatti and Magura brothels were evicted by the government.
Several such incidents have taken place across the country over the time where the state had backed the vested quarter by remaining silent.